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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: January 7, 2015 09:25 AM
From: Representative Joseph T. Hackett
To: All House members
Subject: Amending the PA Crime Victims Act (Former HB 2464)
In the near future, I will reintroduce legislation to amend to the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act. This legislation was considered last session as HB 2464 and passed the House unanimously, but was not considered by the Senate prior to the end of session.

It was brought to my attention by advocates for victims in my district that victims are not always allowed to attend the entirety of criminal trials. Under both the federal Rules of Evidence and the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence, a judge may exclude a victim from portions of the trial. I have been told that a defendant may ask that the judge exclude the victim and that the motion is often granted. The defendant argues that the victim should not hear the testimony of others.

Under the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, a victim has a right not to be excluded from a trial unless the court, based upon clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony of the victim will be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at trial. In addition, the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights states that the court, before making the determination, “shall make every effort to permit the fullest attendance possible by the victim and shall consider reasonable alternatives to the exclusion of the victim…” Further, under federal law, any decision by the judge to exclude a victim must be clearly stated on the record.

Consequently, my bill is modeled after the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights and would amend Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act to bring it in-line with federal law and expressly grant these same rights to victims under state law.

Please direct any questions to Kevin Andrews in my office at 610-461-5543 or kandrews@pahousegop.com.

I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB186